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After the brutal crisis of 2007/2008, the European rulers said it was over, but the economic contradictions are not solved and daily hurt all workers in the continent. Thus, in the European Union for Austerity, the crisis goes on. The Brexit and the struggle of the Yellow Jackets in France are symptoms of this.

By Maria Silva. April 3rd, 2019.

Unsolved economic crisis

The state intervention for saving the banks diminished the explosion of the crisis and transferred to the shoulders of workers the cost of the public debt, with destruction of public services, wage drops, unemployment, poverty and precariousness reaching historical records. But the bankers and owners want to go further with the attack against our rights to reverse the economic cycle of the crisis.

The recent forecasts of the World Bank point to a global slowdown, mainly because of the economic downturn of China and the USA. In Portugal, the growth of the past years was completely dependent of other economies, specifically on the low-interest policy of the ECB (European Central Banks), of exports (which are dropping) and tourism (a very volatile sector); the Bank of Portugal  already predicts, because of this, a drop in the growth for next year.

The governments keep austerity, but nothing will be like before

In Portugal, most of the Troika measures were not reversed by the Geringonça1; austerity goes on. Greece (through the hands of Syriza) still lies on the floor. In the Spanish State, the PSOE, with the support of Podemos, did not reverse the attacks on workers nor the high levels of unemployment. But the austerity is not solely a problem of Southern Europe. In Hungary, thousands took to the streets against the so-called “slavery law”, which allows up to 400 hours of overtime per year.

The crisis puts in conflict the interests of different sectors of the bourgeoisie, who compete to get out of the crisis by destroying the closest competitor. This is what happens between the powers, like USA-China our USA-Germany, but also between the Italian and French government, between the UK and the Germany-France axis.

However, all of them agree on one thing: attacking worker’s rights, public services (as social wages), deepening the division in our class through racism, xenophobia and sexism, using fear, social and police violence to pursue and destroy any resistance which appears.

The lack of a clear response of the majority union and political organizations, along with the inability of the “new Left” to fight to the end against austerity and the EU across the entire continent, opened a breach for hate speech and the extreme Right, which attempts to surf on wave of social discontent with a racist, anti-immigrant speech.

The European project is clearly in a crisis: an infighting among the powers of the bigger slice of the pie, endless austerity as a perspective for workers, State authoritarianism to defend the profits of a few at the cost of most. The polarization to the Left and to the Right defines the search for an alternative for workers.

Yellow Jackets: the fight that shakes France

The announcement of the fuel tax hike was the last straw for an upheaval of radical (and brutally repressed) demonstrations for economic and social reforms (wage and pension increases, improvements for public services, etc.), but also against the antidemocratic V Republic. It is clear that, in France, Macron and the owners want to impose new levels of exploitation to workers, the youth and retirees.

One of the important lessons of the Yellow Jackets was that when the struggle is firm, consequent and massive, based on the will of the rank-and-file, and neither manipulated nor disarmed by the bureaucracy, workers triumph and the struggle is worth it.

However, for it continue and advance, it is necessary that this movement can converge with industrial and other unionised workers to paralyze the country with a general strike with no definite end2, in which every day – like the Yellow Jackets have done so far – the continuity or the steps ahead are decided .

The union bureaucracy remains the main obstacle to the unification of the organized working class around the Yellow Jacket movement, while most of the Left has not really joined it. We need to define a platform with the most important demands and organize a fight plan with strikes, massive demonstrations and blockades until Macron is defeated.

All support in our countries to the struggle of the Yellow Jackets, because their triumph is also the triumph of the working class and the peoples of Europe!

Translator Notes:

[1] Geringonça: roughly “Contraption”; the coalition between the ruling party (the Socialist Party – PS) with other so-called center-left parties (Communist Party – PCP; Left Bloc – BE; and the Greens) to obtain the majority in the Portuguese Parliament and so be able to rule. It promised to “turn the page on austerity”, but so far only the financial market is happy and unemployment has increased.

[2]: what the French call a “re-assignable” strike.

Published by  Em Luta n° 13, Portugal, march 2019.

Translated by Miki Sayoko